August 12, 2013

When the Game Was Still Fun: A Look Back at the Best Celebrations in NFL History

By - Sandra Nevins

Word on the street is that NFL officials will be cracking down on excessive celebrations this season, and by "excessive" I mean pretty much any act whatsoever following a big play besides handing the ball to the referee or walking back to the huddle.

Photo by: Chad Finn
The official rulebook states that a team will receive a 15-yard penalty if a player commits any of these acts:

- sack dance
- home run swing
- "Incredible Hulk"
- spiking the ball
- spinning the ball
- throwing and/or shoving the ball
- pointing at the ball
- pointing at an opponent
- standing over an opponent
- verbal taunting
- military salute

Heavy fines will be levied also.

Commissioner Roger Goodell seems hell bent on removing all fun from the league, but he can never take away the great celebrations of the past already embedded in our memories.

Here's a look back at some of the best.

Old School/Classic:

- Billy "White Shoes" Johnson revolutionized end zone celebrations with his version of the "Funky Chicken."
- Deion Sanders' high-step was simple, yet memorable, and one of my personal favorites.
- Ickey Woods is remembered more for his headband and "Ickey Shuffle" sideline dance than his actual play on the field.


- Terrell Owens running to the 50-yard line and standing on the Dallas star, arms outstretched looking up towards the heavens. T.O. actually did it twice in the same game, but George Teague made him pay for it the second time.
- Steve Johnson pretending to shoot himself in the leg, mocking Plaxico Burress. He was fined $10,000 for the act.

Photo by: Bill Kostroun
- Steve Smith dropping to the ground and pantomiming rowing a boat, trolling the "sex boat" scandal swirling around the Minnesota Vikings at the time.
- Randy Moss pretending to "moon" Green Bay fans after scoring a touchdown.

Group Celebrations:

- The Lambeau Leap; This tradition originated in 1993 when LeRoy Butler jumped into the stands following a score.
- Bob 'n Weave; Made famous by the "Greatest Show on Turf," the St. Louis Rams. It eventually led to a rule change banning celebrations with multiple players.
- The Fun Bunch; The Washington Redskins used to perform this celebration after a score by gathering in a circle and giving each other a leaping high-five.

Photo by: Bob Daughtery
Best Use of Props:

- Terrell Owens signing the football with a sharpie he had tucked away in his sock. The act would have been tremendous had he given the signed ball to a kid in the stands, but he gave it to his financial adviser instead.
- Chad Johnson using the end zone pylon to "putt" the football, followed by a fist pump, similar to what we've grown accustom to seeing from Tiger Woods.
- Joe Horn cleverly hiding his cell phone in the cushioning of the goal post and retrieving it after a touchdown to make a phone call. He was fined $30,000.

Photo by: Getty Images
Masters of the Celebration:

- Terrell Owens' celebrations are iconic for a reason. They were very creative as well as entertaining. Regardless of whether you loved him or hated him, his antics were legendary. Aside from the aforementioned ones, T.O. had plenty of other memorable moments; mocking Ray Lewis, the pom-pom dance, "get your popcorn ready," and the Michael Jackson Thriller dance.
- Chad Johnson was another master of touchdown shenanigans. Some of his many highlights include; the river dance, the cheerleader proposal, the "please don't fine me again" sign, and the gold Hall of Fame 20?? jacket.

The Class Act:

- Barry Sanders was one of the greatest to ever play, and he exemplified grace and class in all aspects of the game. Anytime Sanders would score a touchdown, he'd simply hand the football to an official afterwards. No histrionics whatsoever.

Photo by: Getty Images
Football by its very nature incites great emotion and passion from both players and fans alike, and the best touchdown celebrations have always inspired Monday morning water cooler chatter. Unfortunately, with officials implementing the rules more tightly, it's unlikely we'll see this type of celebratory creativity on game day in the foreseeable future.

With the start of the "No Fun League" season rapidly approaching, I'd like to offer Dictator Goodell a salute, if you will. Not a "Mile High" one, but the standard one-finger variety.

And no, he's not No.1...


  1. Nice list. I remember all of these well. But how did Atlanta's Dirty Bird not make the cut???

  2. Big question on this topic... so let me get this straight... salsa dancing after a touchdown... perfectly legal... yet a military style salute is against the rules... someone explain the logic behind this?

  3. More entertainment value removed, they'll make the teams walk out in complete silence next.

  4. I watch football for the game not the celebrations.

  5. Make that a double one finger salute to Goodell. He sucks major ass.

  6. Of course we watch football for the game, but the celebrations are fun and sort of the proverbial cherry on top of the sundae.

    There were others that I liked but didn't include due to length of the article. I absolutely loved it when Coach Dan Reeves did the Dirty Bird. I also liked Wes Welker's snow angel and Alfonso Smith doing the Carlton dance.

  7. I remember Steve Smith's row boat well (as well as all the other ones on the list) and to be honest it was one of my favourites too, but I neve even realized it was making fun of the party boat scandal until now.